South African school teachers and their learners can now take virtual field trips to areas of historical and geographical importance, following the launch of the local Google Street View Teachers' Guide.
All that is needed is an internet connection and this concept entails using the Google Map's Street View technology to visually explore and navigate a neighbourhood or city through panoramic street-level photographs. Examples of sites to visit include the Hector Pietersen Memorial in Soweto and Table Mountain in Cape Town.
To use it, go to:
According to Julie Taylor, communications manager of Google South Africa, the technology can also be used to "put together stimulating lesson plans, based on South Africa's national education curriculum and outlined learning outcomes".
She explains that the curriculum objectives emphasise the importance of fieldwork and encourage learners to see things with "their own eyes".
"This does not necessarily mean an expensive field trip out of town or out of the country. Both the physical and human aspects of geography are well addressed by Street View, and lesson plans can easily be built around these two facets."
The guide has already been launched in the UK and countries including Canada, Brazil and Denmark. The aim is to showcase how Google's tools can benefit learners and assist teachers with implementing the curriculum in a fun, interactive and creative way, "whilst at the same time helping learners understand the various uses of the internet", says Taylor.
It has been formulated for grades 4-7 and focuses on learning outcomes in the Social Sciences and Life Orientation. It can be adapted for senior grades and the focus is on the history of people, places, resources, beliefs linked to natural features, buildings, school, sites, symbols and monuments and museums. With regard to geography, the emphasis is on fieldwork and encouraging learners to see things with "their own eyes".
Settlement features include types of buildings, roads, businesses, industries and settlement sizes. Under Life Orientation, learners have access to the rules of the road. Learners can 'walk' down different roads and identify various traffic signs, being careful to obey the necessary traffic rules. Religious education and tolerance can also be taught, by allowing learners to take note of different places and buildings that have religious significance.
Taylor explains that the Street View Teachers' Guide aims to "complement and supplement" other educations tools and materials rather rather than replace them.
Street View cars have special cameras that take photographs as they drive down public roads. Once the photographs have been taken, they go through computer processing to make them ready for use on Google Maps. This includes cutting-edge face blurring technology, which helps make sure that passers-by in the photographs can't be identified. Legible license plates are also concealed. When enough imagery is collected and processed for an area, it is added to Google Maps. The imagery is not real-time and usually takes several months before it appears on Google Maps.
Taylor concedes that not all of South Africa's cities have been mapped on Street View as it is an ongoing process. Updates of the latest cities are available here.
For more help on Street View and functions, go to the site. Learners can also familiarise themselves with other tools on Google like Google Translate, Google Images and Google News.
Tips and hints can be found here